Italian Wine Classifications
Often when I’m out at dinner and am the one who is handed the wine list. “You know what to get, you pick” No pressure at all, although most of the time I know what everyone will like. Once everyone takes their first sip and commends me on my choice another slew of questions roll in, most importantly, what does everything on the label mean?
Each country has it’s own classification system, which is beyond overwhelming for most people, so I thought why not do a series that breaks it down easily for everyone to understand?
Italy began producing wine prior to 700 B.C. and is the largest producer of wine in the world. For this blog we are going to focus on appellations and regions.
We’ve covered appellations before but to give you a refresher- an appellation is a legally defined and protected geographical region for identifying where wine grapes are grown. This can also apply to foods, and you will see it on many European cheeses.
VdT – Vino da Tavola, aka Table Wine.
These are most commonly a house wine and not as widespread in the U.S. But when visiting Italy don’t be afraid to try one! I guuarantee you can get a bottle at the local grocery for probably 1€50.
I’m speaking from experience here. Michael and I walked to Coop (their grocery chain) almost every we were in Florence to buy a bottle of wine to watch the sunset and they were inexpensive and pretty good.
IGT – Indicazione Geografica Tipica
IGT one step up from the VdT but is still most commonly drank as a table wine. These are usually made from grapes native to a specific region ie Sangiovese in Chianti.
Many people consider IGT the “new” wines where the winemakers have more creative freedom in the process. One of my favorites is the Super Tuscan, which is a blend of tuscan grapes. Many of you may recognize Tignanello, which is a favorite of Meghan Markle’s.
DOC – Denominazione di Origine Controllata
The appellation Denomination of Controlled Origin was introduced to Italy in the 1960s. While it is similar to DOCG, instead of having two test panels, DOC wines only have one. The area determining the wines characteristics is a bit larger than you find in DOCG, and you can also find both red and white wines within the same DOC.
DOCG – Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita
This appellation was created to highlight the common characteristics of a small territory, and the grapes and wine must be produced in that area of origin. The wines are meant to be kept as traditional as possible and each wine has specific tests to pass to be classified as DOCG. Typically there will be two rounds of testing by expert panels prior to the wine labeling.
Originally there were only 5 wines with DOCG classification:
- Brunello di Montalcino (Tuscany)
- Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (Tuscany)
- Chianti (Tuscany)
- Barolo (Piedmont)
- Barbaresco (Piedmont)
A Few of My Favorites
Marchesi di Barolo Sarmassa 2013 – I was introduced to this wine at the Barolo Barbaresco World Opening in February and love it. I’ve got friends who have been visiting the winery for years and it’s a true crowd favorite.
Cusumano Nero d’Avola 2018 – On my first date with Michael we drank a bottle of Nero d’Avola and ever since it puts a smile on my face. This one is Sicilian and a much more approachable price point than some of my other suggestions.
Antinori Tignanello 2016 – I discovered Antinori & Tignanello wines before Meghan began dating Harry. One of my dear friends, Rebecca, who lives in Florence got married in Chianti overlooking the Antinori vineyards. Absolutely incredible and every time I drink an Antinori wine I’m transported back to that weekend.
Tavernello Rosso Vino da Tavola – Tavernello makes a wide variety of wine across each appellation. This wine, along with a Moscato that they make are VdT because they chose to makes the wines in a way that would not fit into the classification specifics.